Grief Interupted

About six months ago, I was feeling guilty for feeling like I had sufficiently moved past all intense emotions about Dave and feeling like I was good to go, in moving forward in life.  It’s like in the movie Father of the Bride, Part 2 that I watched six trillion times, when the movie starts and Steve Martin says, “It’s like the saying goes, all those who think you’ve got it made, take one step forward . . . not so fast George Banks.” (is it sad that I have that memorized???) All of the sudden I am backwards.  Like, as in, WAY BACKWARDS.  I feel like I’m back at where I should have been at summer number two.  It feel ridiculous, but then again, it kinda makes sense.

Nine months after Dave died, I started my nine month survival plan of living with a terribly herniated disc.  Life became all about managing my physical pain.  Then in the middle of that whole ordeal, I met my ex.  When we got married, I was pretty much, not allowed to have any of Dave’s stuff anymore or even talk about him, and having a feeling about him, was way out of the question.  If I would tell a very neutral story from the years that I was married to Dave, it would not go well. I would say something like, “when WE went to the Sand Dunes, it was so incredibly windy.” Then my ex would sarcastically say, “I never realized that WE went to the Sand Dunes together.”  Then I would try to use I, instead of we, and say, “I went to the Sand Dunes once and it was so incredibly windy.”  Again, according to my ex, I got it wrong and he would say, “Oh, you went there by yourself???”  Then I would just sigh and give up telling my story, or I would ask him to choose the pronoun he would like me to use.  It was too exhausting to ever tell a story, not even about Dave, but any story that took place while I was married to Dave.  This is one tiny little picture of what emotional abuse looked like in my marriage to my ex.  It wasn’t like he would call me names or tell me I wasn’t worthy. In fact, often times his words were complimentary, which is what makes these relationships so confusing.

And don’t even get me started on Dave’s birthday or death day.  I didn’t even want them to exist, because managing my ex around those times, took more out of me, than taking time to remember Dave.  If I had a feeling about Dave that I would dare to express, my ex would express how difficult it was to be married to someone who had lost a spouse.  There simply wasn’t enough room for me to have a feeling about missing Dave, because that was just too hard for my ex and then I would have to manage his feelings and his passive aggressiveness that would inevitably ramp up to a level 10.  It was so impossible.

As, I type this, no wonder I am so far back in the grief process.  I seriously had to shut so much of Dave down, as soon as I put that ring on.  It is so sad. Last summer, I did not feel this way.  I felt immense relief and some serious anger, but now that those are diminishing, the sadness and the vacancy that Dave left, is so stark and so sharp.  I’ve decided that I do NOT do sad, very well.  In fact, I seriously hate it.

I’ve done a lot of choking back tears lately.  Like a couple Fridays ago, when I went to pick up Spencer at Eagle Lake Camp, where Dave and I were both campers at the SAME TIME, when we were Spencer’s age. What are the chances of that happening???  I can’t even imagine how different it would have been to drop Spencer off at camp or pick him up, with Dave there???  Then when we got back, I took the girls to get mountain bikes and we all went for a mountain bike ride.  It felt so great to take care of all of that on my own and get them out there, because I knew Dave would be cheering us all on, but the cloud of sadness that he was not WITH us, was pressing in so hard that day.  Then after that we went to the pool and I got to play some volleyball . . . yet another thing Dave and I enjoyed doing together. I loved everything I did that day, but I couldn’t get away from heavy sadness that comes with doing Dave things.  It’s like I want to carry on all these things that we did together and I want my kids to learn all the things they would have if Dave were here, but doing those things, also hurts, lately.

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I can’t even seem to speak his name without crying, lately. I was timing at a swim meet, when someone asked how he died and I instantly began to leak tears.  It is just so right back on the surface, for LITERALLY crying out loud.   I broke down in Taco Bell, of all places, the other day.  May I remind you, this is 6 1/2 years later??????  It feels ridiculous to me!!!! My kids were with me and they were like, “What the heck?” So I told them I was missing Dave and then I went on for a bit.  I said, “Are you guys tired of listening to me talk, yet.”  Spencer said, “I’ll never get tired of hearing you, mom.”  Leah goes, “I will!”  I want to be fine without him and without any other guy, for that matter.   I am relearning again how to do this life and parenting without Dave, (or anyone else) yet again.  This time, for reals!

Oh, one quick story from our bike riding time, was when they all started to do some bouldering and the girls were having a hard time getting back down.  I was at the bottom telling them to get busy getting down and that it was taking forever, because that is the kind of patient mom I am!!!  Meanwhile, Spencer had climbed over to them and told them where to put each foot and he talked them down all instructively (is that a word?) and calmly.   It was SOOOOOOOOOO Dave, that I started laughing out loud!!!!  Spencer is SUCH a mini-Dave in his just simple kindness.  It’s not from me!!!!!!

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Father’s Day just recently passed.  I just wanted to pretend that the day was just like any other day.  I’ve already felt so griefy lately, that I just didn’t want to entertain all those sad feeling that I’m evidently NOT good at, whatsoever. I was doing such a good job at forgetting that it was Father’s Day, that I got on Facebook, where every post is about how wonderful everybody’s dad is, complete with perfect family photos. I was in mid gag, when I came across this post called, “Let the Children Fly,” and it challenged me to work A LOT harder that day to honor Dave, by using the day to talk about the men in my kids’ lives that are examples of good fathers. Lately, I tend to want to point out what makes up an unhealthy person, but after reading that post,  I tried to use Father’s Day to talk about what makes a good father. They had some really good ideas on what makes a good father. I ended up letting them take the lead on the day, and they decided that they wanted to play mini golf at Dave’s favorite spot.  And then at dinner that night, Leah prayed and thanked God for all the Father’s out there.  She was thankful for fathers, even though she doesn’t have one here on earth????????  My kids are quite possibly so much further than I am.  So, to the men in my kids’ lives, they are watching and God may be using you, more than you know, when you live lives of integrity, honesty, kindness, and faithfulness.

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This is a father that my kids didn’t know super well, but man, all three of my kids really looked up to him.  We will miss you, Ted Woodard! 
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This weekend, I’m headed to an Aldridge reunion of sorts.  I’m so thankful for my continued relationship with Dave’s family.  I love them so much. Sometimes when I think things will be hard, they are not, and sometimes when I least expect it, the grief hits. Either way, I’m thankful to still be a part of Dave’s family.

One last parting thought.  I am not really a lyrics person.  I don’t need deep lyrics to enjoy a song, but I do like a fun beat, (that’s just how deep I am).  With Tween’s in the car, I’ve gotten a lot of Tweeny music exposure.  One of my favorite songs, lately, is, “Broken and Beautiful,” by Kelly Clarkson.  It’s how I feel about writing a post like this.  It’s this mix of, “I’ve got this!” “Hold me!” “My broken is beautiful!” Some of the lyrics are:

I don’t need your help and I don’t need sympathy
I don’t need you to lower the bar for me

I know I’m Superwoman
I know I’m strong
I know I’ve got this ’cause I’ve had it all along
I’m phenomenal
And I’m enough
I don’t need you to tell me who to be

Can someone just hold me?
Don’t fix me, don’t try to change a thing
Can someone just know me?
‘Cause underneath, I’m broken and it’s beautiful  

 

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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